Forgot to post week 10

As I head into my final week of my internship I can’t help but feel very sad. Though I am excited to return home and see my friends, family, pets, and mostly eat a whole bunch of American food, I know that leaving here is going to break my heart. I have never felt so accepted and happy anyplace so quickly and I have frequently said that I would be happy to just stay here forever. But I know for now that I must return home. This experience has renewed my love for zoology and will continue to be my driving force over he next year as I hopefully finish my degree.

The last couple weeks have been amazing because I have been able to go on trips to the continent to see and experience more than just the island. I’ve seen capybaras, and so many different birds and bugs as big as shot glasses. There is so much to this country and this entire world than I ever knew and I am so excited to mark this as my first adventure in traveling and I look forward to many more trip all over the world in my future.

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To Future Interns

Dear Future Interns,

Going abroad can be scary at times but let me assure you that this will likely end up being one of the greatest experiences of your life.Florianopolis is one of the most unique and beautiful places I’ve ever seen, and it’s people have a unique culture. Though there island is part of Brazil many locals say that the island is vastly different. The island has influences from the Portuguese and well as Germans, and there are many historical structures that have been here since the early 1800s. Island has a lot of history and you will be able to learn a lot in a short amount of time if you really want to.

The people here are amazing and inclusive. No matter what your background or where you came from the people you meet are always very kind and want to know more about you. They love sharing, whether it be in conversation, food or even space everyone here seems to like being around other people.

Exploring the island can be a little terrifying at first, to be honest. The bus system is the main source of transportation because cars are very expensive here and the roads are small and slightly rough. The buss costs about 4 reais and you can travel just about anywhere on the island. A good app to have is Moovit which allows you to figure out what busses to take in order for you to go where you want to. It’s also important to remember that the busses don’t stop at every stop, if you want to get off at the next stop then you have to pull at string on the ceiling to alert the driver.

The internship itself is the absolute best part of being here, at least for me. The people who work here are amazing, genuine, kind, generous, and hard working people. It is easy to quickly form close bonds with them and they are the reason that I never want to leave here. The animals are amazing and have allowed me to learn more about wild animals than sitting in class ever did. They each have individual personalities and they have helped me see the importance of all life and how to respect each life, which is also an important concept here. The project does amazing work in research, conservation, and education. I really hope that this project continues to grow and more people become involved because this is truly incredible work that the project does and I am so grateful to have been a part of it this term.

So if you choose to participate in this internship then you have made a wonderful decision. You will learn so much about Brazil, and animals, and even yourself. It’s important though to be open to all sorts of new experiences but it’s also ok for you to stay back if you don’t feel comfortable. Just be open minded and be positive and you will get more out of this internship than you ever expected.

Much love,

Jordan Smith-Martinez

Happiness is Here

I honestly hate writing these blog posts, because each week it reminds me that my time here is coming closer and closer to its end. When I first arrived here I was so uncomfortable and I probably would have taken any chance I was given to go home and now it’s the exact opposite, I will honestly take any chance I get to stay.

I have depression, it just a fact of my life and before coming here,my depression was really bad and I knew something needed to change and this was the change I’ve needed. I now can honestly say that I am happy here, and i haven’t been this happy or content with life since my first few terms of college. I’m off my depression medication, I don’t lay in bed when I have days off, I want to go out and explore and learn all that I can. For once I feel like I am somewhere I actually belong.

On Thursday Junior, the project manager, showed us a presentation of the future expansion plans for the project, assuming everything works out financially, and I was super excited about the growth of this amazing project. But then I remembered that I won’t be here to see it happen and it hit me that I’m leaving in two weeks.

It’s not that I’m not excited to see my family and friends when I return but if the opportunity arises I would stay here. The people here have become as close as family and my daily routine, as mundane as it may sometimes seem, constantly reminds me that what I’m doing has an impact in conservation. And right now that’s all I need to make me happy.

Semana Seis

This week started off with a little rearranging of the otters as we suspect that one is now pregnant. Since there are seven otters and only five enclosure this took quite a lot of effort and deliberation. As we learned a couple weeks ago some of the otters can escape certain enclosure and cause stress and chaos for everyone, but after many switches and a few days of observation we finally seem to have made everyone happy. 

In order to keep the otters less stressed we had to find ways to distract the otters from focusing on their new enclosures; this included using various nutritional enrichment activities. We put fish in banana leaves, and made fish popsicles, and hid fish in cardboard boxes for the otter to smell out and find. This made most of the otters very happy, except for Bela, the pregnant one, who didn’t want to put effort into finding her food.

The couple days after were fairly uneventful until lunch one day when my coworker runs up to me carrying a turtle. She then proceeded to hand me the turtle. I got to help in the vet lab as she examine the turtle. It basically looked like it had been hit by a car or bike or hammer or something. It had a large area in its shell broken and scrapes all over the rest of his shell and head, along with what looked like a dislocated shoulder. It was the first time I literally had my hands on a creature that needed help because it had been hurt, either intentionally or unintentionally, by humans. And though my heart slightly broke at this thought , it also reminded me that this is what I want to be doing for the rest of my life.

A day later I watched as someone abandoned their rabbit and drove off. Apparently Peri Lake, where I am staying, is somewhere of a hot spot for leaving unwanted pets. This makes sense because I have easily seen at least 30 homeless dogs. 

As the week came to a close I ventured off the island to the town of Itapema with my coworker. We saw the band Cachorro Grande and I learned that Brazilian shows don’t start until late at night and are rarely on time. The show was scheduled to start at 11pm and did not start until 3am. Needless to say by 5am we were exhausted and left so we could get some sleep.

So that has been my week, as I have spent the rest of the weekend recharging both physically and mentally.

Till next week.

The Halfway Point

The fact that I have been in Florianopolis for five weeks, and leave in five weeks, honestly kind of scares me. This wonderful little island has grown on me more and more with each week here. It’s is full of adventures, insane biodiversity and amazing people, and I am actually happy here (partially because in October it is sunny and 85 degrees).
The lifestyle of people here is so different than life in the USA, but one thing that continues to amaze me every day is how friendly people are, partially because when they met you, they have no expectations. During my time here I have seen people of all shapes, sizes, skin tones, hair colors, and backgrounds and all are accepted with open arms and kiss on the right cheek. The people that I’ve met here are genuinely caring and love to learn about new people and new things. 
Several times I have been asked how I like Brazil, and each time I say how beautiful everything I have seen is and how I never want to leave. And their response is always, “Then stay, never leave.” And it warms my heart every single time. Then I remember that I am returning home to a country that wouldn’t respond the same way if I were a foreigner wanting to stay; and that breaks my heart. 

Though I will miss many things about Brazil when I leave in five weeks, I will miss the atmosphere of kindness and acceptance the most, and it is definitely the reason that I will be returning in the future.

A Deeper Look Into Zoology

Somehow, I keep thinking that eventually one of these weeks are going to be boring, but when working with otters it’s is almost guaranteed that this job will never be predictable. This week we decided to move some of the otters into different enclosures, so they could get a change of scenery like otters in the wild do. Only apparently our otters ar perfectly content with their current enclosures. Within the first two days after moving them around: two otters plugged the water pipes and flooded their new enclosures and one climbed up and out of his enclosure into another and attacked a mother and her baby. It was a crazy and chaotic scene but I was luck enough to be able to help watch the two month old baby otter, Iru, while my supervisors dealt with the other much larger otters. 

As well as this experience I was able to gain a little more insight to an actual career in zoology, and to be honest at this time it kind of sucks. Though the work that places like this do is amazing and informative it often does not receive much funding. When there is a lot of tourism and donations, then the employees can get paid, but during times like right now when the only incoming money is from the few visitors each day, no one gets paid, and all the money goes to being able to feed the animals each day. A lot of the help and support to keep this project going comes from the eco volunteers, which currently there has not been very many of. 

It has gotten me to think more about my future in this career field and though it terrifies me because much work in conservation is minimal paying, if at all, it makes me that much more driven and happy to be apart of such an important field. Many of these animals wouldn’t be alive without the help that this project has provided and I love the feeling I get from being able to help, even if I can only help a little.

Meeting New People

I honestly don’t even know where to start with this week, so I will start at the beginning. On Monday three new eco volunteers came to help out for three days. They were a family: a mother from Colombia and two daughters, age eight and nine, both born in Texas. Each one of them spoke three languages fluently: English, Spanish, and Portuguese. They were some of the kindest and most open-minded people I have ever met. I enjoyed getting to know each one of them and help make their experience here at Projecto Lontra unforgettable. It was really the first time here that I began to feel like a professional in this career which I really enjoyed. 

Halfway through the week, my coworker’s friend  came to visit and volunteer for a few days. He was very kind and though he spoke little English he helped me to learn a little bit more Portuguese, and these newfound Portuguese skills were put to the test when my coworker and him invited me to go to the bars with them. I’m not gonna lie I was a little terrified at first but I am determined to see and do all that I can during my time in Brazil so I decided to go with them. Though I was nervous at first I ended up having a lot of fun and got to better experience the social aspect of the culture. Everyone I met while out was super friendly and very understanding and patient with the fact that I don’t understand much of the language. In fact several times they would tell a story in Portuguese and repeat what they could in English for me so I wouldn’t feel so left out. It honestly warms my heart and makes me so happy to be around such genuine people all the time.

 I also got to try a chicken heart hot dog while out, which was very interesting, not terrible, but I probably won’t be eating again anytime soon. 

The week was finished off by a hike to a village that can only be accessed by hiking and by some shopping with an American friend that I have made during my time here. 

So far I feel like I have broadened my horizons so much and can’t wait to see what the future weeks hold.

The Week I Cuddled An Otter

Now that I am through my second week of being in Brazil I am finally starting to get the hang of things. Work is fairly consistent in its daily tasks but some days we go on treks and this weeks were very difficult. The week started with a three hour canoe trip around the lagoa, which believe me was not easy. But it allowed me to see some amazing sights such as ten feet tall cacti, and a capybara. After that my muscles got a couple days to relax before we went on a trek over a mountain… twice. It was definitely one of the hardest physical activities I have ever done and there were definitely moment that I didn’t think I was going to be able to continue, but with the help of my motivational and patient coworker Pricilla, I made it! 

Looking back at the difficulties of this week has helped me realize that I am a stronger person that I thought I was; physically and emotionally. I am beginning to find enjoyment in the beauty of Brazil rather than being homesick and have found mechanisms to cope with feeling alone. I definitely still have my moments of feeling depressed but I can honestly say that I am really starting to love it here.

My favorite part of this week was yesterday. When I was feeling alone and bored my coworker knocked on my door, so I unlocked it and in came an otter, Nana. She is the sweetest little thing and definitely loves being around humans. We got to sit outside with Nana as she explored the yard and used us as human chew toys. After a while she got tired out and crawled into my lap. My heart melted. It was one of those rare moments in life where I was reminded that I am exactly where I am supposed to be and that the career I am pursuing is perfect for me. I cannot wait to see what the future weeks of this internship hold (hopefully more otter snuggles).

Week One= Done

Well this week has been a whirlwind of emotions, to say the least. I’ve never been outside of North America, nevertheless by myself. So, leaving my family to travel to Brazil was mildly terrifying. I was sad to leave my family, excited to get to travel, and worried something bad would happen. But now that I’ve been here for a week, my original nerves have begun to settle.

Brazil is amazing. It’s like a whole different world here than I am used to. It’s constantly humid and warm, which is nice during the day, but not so much when trying to sleep. The wildlife is absurdly beautiful. On day one I saw monkeys, toucans, kimono dragons, and of course otters. The otters are amazing, and working with them makes me so happy. They make the cutest sounds and will do anything for fish. I also get to work with Iraras, an animal closely related to otters, but are much more social, and they love to be petted and give kisses.

I havent done a ton of exploring outside Projecto Lontra, where I am staying, but I have gone to the beach and a couple stores around the area. Luckily, I have found a few American food/drink items that I keep buying to keep from getting homesick; such as Frosted Flakes, Pringles, Sprite, and Nestle chocolate. It has been quite the change getting used to being in a different country because there are many situations here that I am not used to, like seeing dogs wander around without owners, or having monkeys constantly in the trees overhead.

All in all, my time here so far has been wonderful, but I still miss my home, family, and friends, but I am determined to stick this out and continue learning!

Week one down, nine more to go!

Boa Noite!

I’m Here… Now What?

Hello beautiful people of the world, and welcome to my blog!

So for those of you that don’t know my name is Jordan Smith-Martinez and I am a 3rd year zoology student at Oregon State University (Go Beavs!). At this point in my life I have realized that things are changing, and though they are wonderful changes they still scare me to death because becoming an adult and being on my own is scary to me. All of my life I have struggled to figure out who I am and what I stand for, and though I am starting to figure it out it comes at a time of increased responsibility and overall stress.

As I figure out the rest of my story I feel it is important to keep track of how I got to where I am now, and how I grow in the future. My past has been good. My extended family is unnecessarily dysfunctional (Which I am sure you will all learn more about later), but I was raised by my strong independent mother and my loving step-dad. They are wonderful role-models and I am constantly trying to make them proud because of all they have done to support me. It is because of this that I applied for an internship abroad for the fall 2017 term, and I GOT ACCEPTED! As it is looking I will be working at an otter conservation institute in Brazil next fall and I couldn’t be more thrilled! Working with otters is without a doubt my dream job and I have always wanted to travel so this opportunity means the world to me. But, as I mentioned, change is scary so I do have some reservations about going, but I won’t let that stop me from taking advantage of this wonderful opportunity.

This blog will allow my to record my progress preparing for and experiencing this whole internship as well as, hopefully, being a resource for future students that get this opportunity.

Anyways, long story short, I hope you all enjoy reading about my experience attempting to be on my own in a foreign country, and you will probably learn a lot about me real fast!

Much love,

JSM